Gabon awaits next move from junta after coup ousts President Bongo

Gabon on Thursday awaited the next move by its new military junta one day after it overthrew the government, named a new leader and detained long-standing President Ali Bongo in his residence.

The junta declared the takeover on national television before dawn on Wednesday and cancelled election results that minutes earlier had handed Bongo a third term in power, and would have extended his family’s 56 years in power.

The coup is the eighth in West and Central Africa since 2020, and the second – after Niger – in as many months. Most of the coups have occurred in Francophone countries. Military officers have also seized power in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Chad, erasing democratic gains since the 1990s and raising fear among foreign powers that have strategic interests in the region.

Gabon, an OPEC member, is a major oil and manganese producer whose ousted president also made strides to protect vast Gabon’s pristine forests and endangered elephants.

But Bongo’s popularity had worn thin amid claims of corruption, sham elections, and a failure to spend more of Gabon’s oil revenues on the country’s poor.

Bongo took over in 2009 on the death of his father Omar, who had ruled since 1967.

Hundreds of people celebrated the military’s intervention in the streets of the capital Libreville on Wednesday, just as the United Nations, African Union and France, Gabon’s former colonial ruler which has troops stationed there, condemned the coup.